Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Buy A Condo She Said

The Spousal Unit is on a roll!  Man Cub graduates from MSU in May,  he's out of the Starkville Condo by June, that unit is sold by the end of July, then, the first of August, we closed on a condo in "That Town Up North", otherwise known as Oxford.

"Its unoccupied" she says, "almost move in ready", she continues.  "Just some paint on these white walls and in we come"!  Yeah, right, okay.  Its like that cheer they say up there "Are you ready?"  My reply is " so, I guess I'm the painter?"  And you know what her next line was...".HYDR (Hell Yeah, Damn Right)!"


The day of the closing, we of course got the keys.  The Spousal Units Acura MDX was loaded to the max, including the rack on the back that had one of those mail order memory foam mattresses in a bag, for one of the beds.  After unloading everything, it was back to Brandon to prepare for a vaca week planned nine months earlier.


By this time, the Spousal Unit has had time to pick out some paint colors.  We make the stop at LOWES, and pick up Paint, brushes, door locks, digital thermostat, LED light bulbs, shower heads, ceiling fans, and enough stuff to fill up a cart and hear the cash register go cha-ching, ching, ching!!! 

Next morning, the Spousal Unit got busy washing all the new towels and sheets that were delivered courtesy of UPS.  I quickly knocked out the three new door knobs, one for the front door, one for the storage room, and one for the "owner's closet" to secure things off limits to any overnighters that use the unit.  Replacing the door knobs was far easier than calling a locksmith, $50 vs a minimum of $100 just for the service call. Next, the new shower heads were installed, and ready to go.  Man, that first hot shower with the rain shower head was wonderful!

Then the fun began.  I took the cover off the old thermostat, only to discover that the unit was a heat pump.  We swapped out one in Starkville, and it was a royal pain in the ass.  Dadgumit! And I think I bought the wrong one!  Next, two ceiling fans.  I took down one of the light fixtures, only to discover there was only a light weight rod spanning the ceiling rafters, not nearly strong enough to support our ceiling fans, double dawg dadgumit!  Off to paint!

I've been painting all my life.  we went through three buckets of paint with ease, running out on Sunday, about the time we needed to pack up and head back to home base.  I felt pretty good about all the work we had gotten done.  The Spousal Unit even got the cable going on the TV that made the trip.  Before we left, the complex manager showed up with the internet guys to install the modem.  A wireless router was already in route courtesy of Amazon Prime!


Time for more painting.  Two bedrooms are now a light shade of blue, and the living and dining are a color called "lambs ear".  The cabinets in the kitchen were stained wood, which just darkened up the place.  Painting these called for a trip to Sherwin Williams since LOWES doesn't carry oil based enamel paint.

After the Spousal Unit had done some research, it turns out that the new thermostat would work after all, yes!  This sucker was programmable and wifi enabled, so it could be monitored remotely.  Now that's what you call high tech!

The bathrooms got new curved shower rods to add more roominess to these fiberglass tubs.  I also added new tub drains that you press with you foot to open and close.  The cabinets got one coat of paint before I ran out.  Next trip with a stop at Sherwin Williams should do the trick!

I installed a wireless doorbell so that the spousal unit could hear the door if she had company knocking while she was in the back prepping.   That sucker has 35 different tone sequences, and of course we went with the first one.

The wireless router came on with no problems.  It allows you to have two "logins", one for you at higher speeds, and another at a lower speed for guests.  I wanted to name it the "geriatric luv shack" but the Spousal Unit overruled me!  Rats!

I was then able to turn on the wifi features of the new thermostat.  We can now adjust it and monitor the temperature from Brandon, or from our smart phones.  We can put the unit on 80 degrees and then adjust it down on our way up there on future trips!  Technology is awesome, once you figure it out!

The ceiling fans by far were the worst project of all.  I put the fans together, ready to be hung.  I then removed the old light fixture.  There is now a four inch hole for me to work with.  I pushed the small rods enough so I could pull them apart, then bent them to one side.  I then installed a much bigger rod through that four inch hole.  This rod is held in place by tension between the rafters.  Three hours later we had two operational ceiling fans! 

While working on the last one, there was a knock on the door.  The upstairs neighbor had worked late last night had was having trouble sleeping with me banging in the ceiling and Oscar & Otis barking at every little odd noise.  he wanted to know when we would be done with our renovation projects.  That pretty much tells you that there is no insulation between floors.  I started laughing, and the Spousal Unit said "what????"  My comment back was "I can't wait till he has some spend the night company and the ceiling begins to talk to US!!!"  I'll probably take him some cookies on the next trip as a peace offering :-).

During the trip, we also acquired a bigger TV, one of those "smart TV's".  It took that sucker almost an hour to complete its search and destroy mission to load all the channels that weren't scrambled.  Basic and expanded basic service along with the internet are included in our month HOA fees.  We decided to wait on the digital signal upgrade "for a fee" for now.

Finally all of my "almost move in ready"chores are almost done.  I only have one more coat of paint on the bathroom cabinets to go for our next trip, which will be the first home football game.  The Spousal Unit takes over with adding d├ęcor and additional furnishings.  We have a queen, a double, and a set of bunk beds at the ready for sleepovers.  After the painting, my only chores will be grilling on the patio or driving to one of the eateries for my foodie addiction.

And she said, "its almost move in ready......."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

GPS Crazy Chick

When we got our first Garmin years ago, it literally saved our marriage.  Before, we would try to find our way using a paper map, or worse, some hand written instructions, and of course, we would end up missing a turn, taking a wrong turn, and end up being mad at each other.

Enter the GPS gal to save the day!  The spousal unit did not appreciate my love affair with the Garvin chick.  She would say "you never get mad or yell at her!"  I'd just look a her and say "well at least with her, if I miss a turn, she says "recalculating"!"

Our GPS with our Chevy Traverse was wonderful.  If you couldn't load or find the location in the GPS, you simply called the OnStar folks and they would send you the directions via satellite, and off you go!

Well, the old Traverse got a few too many miles on her, and repairs were becoming a nagging issue, so time for a new ride.  The Spousal unit decided on an Acura MDX.

The Acura has a "state of the art" new high end, high tech, GPS system.  It mostly works off of voice commands.  That works great except that she will only listen to the driver, ignoring all other passengers.  The process works great, as long as you are speaking the Acura version of the English language.  If you are an ole southern Redneck like me, your patience will eventually run thin.

The backup plan would be to hit the "Acura link " button and ask for the directions to be downloaded, just like OnStar.  Only problem, they want $300 up front just to turn on that feature!  Being an independently minded feller, I ain't go time for that!

Normally, when heading to a new dot on the map, I'll take the time to load the coordinates before we leave the driveway.  This trip, I knew where I was going and how to get there.  The trip was gonna take around six hours, and about halfway, I got board, so what the hell, let's play Captain Kirk and voice command!

The Acura chick prefers you to give her city and State first, to narrow down the search.  I told her "Miramar Florida".  I admit, I spoke it in Southerneze, dragging out F-l-o-r-i-d-a!  She comes back with some place in Oregon!  WTH???  It got a little better once I tried "Destin", with a quick reference to "Florida".  But, the more I tried voice prompting the exact location, the more frustrated I became.

I looked over at the Spousal unit, who was laughing at me, so much that she was about to wet her pants.  I asked "what???"  She replied "you are yelling at her like you used to yell at me!!!  I guess the honeymoon with you two is over"!  Busted!  She had my number!  We were now both laughing our heads off!

Finally I just hit the cancel button on the Acura chick, hit goggle maps on my smartass phone, typed in the desired location, and bam!  Instant directions!  Strike up a win for Google!

I'm not done with the Acura chick yet.  There are many more battles with her coming before I throw in the towel!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Gibbs Country Store revisited

We've been to Gibbs Country Store, via the back roads from Bolton, riding as passengers with great friends.  I've been wanting to plan a return trip since then, but could never find the time til now.

Thank you Google Maps for showing us the way to Learned, MS!  Gibbs Country Store is located five miles off Hwy 18, past Raymond.  When you notice that your cell phone is down to one bar, you know your are almost there.

You can get an idea of about how long you will wait just by counting the cars along the side of the road that approaches the restaurant.  There were a lot of BMW's, Tahoes, infinities, Lexus, and a Caddy or two.

We arrived around 6:20, put our name on the list, then took a seat outside with an anticipation of an hour wait.  Thankfully we found an unoccupied bench, instead of sitting on top of an old car tag along the edge of the front porch.  Had we opted for one of the car tags, you would have been able to make out the outline of the county and State on our backside for days!

For a one street town, Learned was a happening place!  A stretch limo pulled up,  and out popped six passengers.  I hope the driver has satellite radio to occupy his time, because his cell phone was gonna be useless on in this neck of the woods.  A Chevy pickup passed by, and I figured that he had to be local because of all the mud on the side of the truck.

To pass the time, i got in plenty of bird watching.  Cars would pull up, and out would pop all these women, with
 a glass of wine in one hand and the bottle in the other.  It was quite a balancing act to manage both plus a purse!  One group of six had never been.  One of the guys said all his friends that had been said Gibbs was wonderful.  Part of the reason its so good is by the time your name is called you are starving to death!

Finally, 1.5 hours later, our name was called.  The restaurant was at capacity.  The two of us were seated at a table for four.  No sooner had we taken our seats, when the cashier walks to a big table next to us, and she proceeds to ask them to "speed it on up" as others were waiting for a seat! After that, we offered the two remaining seats up for other guests.  Enter Steve and Bob, seventy and ninety years old respectively

Johnny Crocker was there, playing his guitar, and taking requests from the diners.  The place was loud from Johnny and the wine and beer being consumed, that I told Steve and Bob that I hope I didn't yell at my wife on the way home!

Each time the back door was opened, the restaurant would be filled with the smell of charcoal on a slow burn.  I looked at our new friend Steve, and said "smell that?  Ah, the smell of money!"

As we were wrapping  up our meal, I noticed two young girls at the next table.  To fight back their hunger pains they were all in with the salad crackers and butter that the waitress had.dropped off.

Our meal complete, it was time to settle up. I love their of method of closing out your bill.  "You had two steaks, two drinks, and a dessert, $80!"  A $20 tip made it a $100 evening!

As we made it past all those fancy cars, I was so thankful that the GPS lady was waiting to escort us home!  Man! I love technology!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

So, You Want A Place In Oxford

You went to school years ago at the school up north, located in a town called Oxford.  Every fall you make the Saturday trips to Mecca, better known as "The Grove".  You pay your dues so you will have a place under the oaks to call your home along with your fellow tailgaters. if only for less than 24 hours.  Then its pack it up time, haul it all off, and then do it all again repeatedly all fall.  Thankfully the "tent set up guy" handles the heavy stuff, and he pretty much guarantees you your same spot week after week, year after year!

Then, if you're like us, you have the car all packed up, and you are in your own bed by 2 or 3 in the wee hours of the morning.  This is easy in the early years, you are young, you bounce back strong.  Later in life, your eyes open, but nothing else is moving.  If you're lucky, you can get a room in town on a nonconference game weekend.  During SEC game weekends, the room rates are out the roof!  Some locals are now renting out their homes on those big SEC weekends.

By now, your kids are out of the house, out of college, and hopefully off the payroll!  Let's buy a condo!  No more late night travel, a place to call your own, and friends will always be welcome!  We've got plenty of extra money now, let's do it!

Well guess what, you are now behind in the game.  All the old apartment complexes built in the 70's to 90's have already gone condo, and they are all owned by investors, retirees, and weekenders, just like you.  If you are lucky, and your timing is just right, you might catch one on the resale market, as kids graduate, and the parents lose interest, or they are now selling to "move on up"!

Condos selling below $90,000 are nonexistent.  Those going for $91,000 to $115,000 are far and few between.  The pickings become more plentiful once you get into the $125,000 to $250,000 range.  And don't forget the HOA fees, which on the low end are $300 to $600 per quarter.  Some have a pool and club house, while on others the fees only cover the building structure.

The housing market is not any better.  Houses going in the $150,000 to $250,000 range are receiving 3-6 offers within days of going on the market.  The builders are pre-selling their developments, attracting the higher income sector and the retirees looking to relocate to Oxford.

The Spousal Unit and I ventured into this land of OZ yesterday.  Our price range limited us to five units to look at.  Two of these were townhouses, with upstairs and downstairs, and one sold pending the day before our tour.  Two of the others were the same floor plan, 2 bdr, 2 bathrooms, at one complex, and were 1100 square feet.  The last one was 840 square feet and was in one of the oldest apartment complexes in town and was 2bdr with one bath.

I had viewed pictures of the 840 sq. ft. unit on the internet the day before.  When we stepped into it, it was like OMG!  this is one of those tiny houses we've seen on TV, but bigger.  Apparently I had a pre-conceived mental picture of the dimensions in my head, but that was quickly blown away once I stepped in!

After touring all the units, we had to narrow our choices down.  That was easy, all the townhouses were marked off the list quickly.  The days of falling down stairs are long gone and the days of having to crawl up stairs are fast approaching.  The 840 sq. ft. unit had location going for it but nothing else.  That left us with two units at the same complex, with one being upstairs, and the other down.  These were two units of five that an investor bought up less than two years ago, and he was now cashing in.  The downstairs unit it will be!

None of these units have been "flipped" and as the realtor kept saying, some just need some "lipstick".  The same units flipped were going for $140,000 up.  Fortunately the old saying that "you can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig" doesn't apply to Condos.  A fresh coat of paint, new carpet or floors and some work on the kitchen, and you've got yourself a weekender!

An offer has been made.  Now the waiting begins.......

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One Day

Well, I've reached the magic age of almost 60 and my boys are now full fledged adults .  "one day" they too will be called Dad!

One day, the woman in your life will surprise you with the words "you're gonna be a Daddy".  These are magical words because suddenly, with those five words your whole outlook on life just changed.  You will watch her tummy grow, and before long, you will feel and see movement coming from inside of her.  Together ya'll made this happen and both of you will be welcoming one of God's gifts into this crazy world we live in.

One day your life will be full of new firsts.  You will welcome your newborn to this world.  You most likely will hear the first cry at delivery.  The first diaper change won't be far behind.  You will now be responsible for three lives, not just your own.  The responsibilities are only beginning!

One day you will discover the first tooth. 

One day you will help with those first steps.

One day you will remember swearing you would never enter a McDonalds again.  You will be in the parking lot, about to revisit your own childhood with your first adult purchase of a happy meal!

One day you will be dropping off and picking up at daycare.  Then, there is the first day at real school.  Momma's aren't the only ones to shed a tear as you drive off, leaving your precious cargo in someone else's care.

One day you will be that T-ball and soccer coach.  You will learn from a kid's perspective, that running through the tunnel after the game and enjoying snack time are the best parts about sports.

One day you will be there to make bobos all better.  They will fall down, and you will be there to pick them up,  The hardest part is when its time to let them pick themselves up.

One day you will be there for the first date, the first dance, and the first curfew.

One day you will be there when your precious one graduates from high school and is about to move off to college.  You will hope and pray that you have taught all the right life lessons along the way and that your precious one remembers them.

One day your life as a college parent will end, and your precious one has become that new adult with the world waiting on them to make a difference.

One day you too, will be sitting at home, waiting for that special phone call, or visit, from the one that calls you "Dad".  It will be your turn to reminisce and wonder where all the time went.  You will wonder, "did I give it my all?"  For me, there are no regrets, no wishes for second chances.

I was there for you every step of the way.  Hopefullywe both learned a lot, some things for the first time, and others as reminders of those life lessons that came our way.

My "One Day" has been every day of your young life.  It is my hope that you have at least half as much fun in life on your "One Day" as I've had in mine.

Life is good, 'One Day" at a time.......

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Fairhope and Point Clear

When you finally get across Mobile Bay on the dreaded I-10 tunnel and bridge, take a right on old Hwy 98.  This will lead you to a different slice of paradise.

When you see the exit for Point Clear, the exit lane immediately tells you that you are headed to somewhere special.  The roadway is lined with American flags.  You would swear that they must be celebrating something special, and they are, your arrival!

Fairhope is a sleepy kind of town.  No major shopping centers, and no Walmart close by. Lots of shops dot the main streets full of art, antiques,  and clothing than can occupy a day for the bargain hunter in you. There are no high rise buildings to block your view.  The streets are full of 100 year old live oak trees with Spanish Moss dangling in the breeze.

There are several parks and vantage points to view Mobile Bay, especially at sunset.  There are plenty of boats to watch sail or motor by.

In the spring, they have a wonderful arts and craft fair that have vendors by invitation.  We have been to it several times, and the spring azaleas are usually in full bloom.

A little further south down the road is Point Clear.  More and more people are making this area their home, as evidenced by the new housing construction that is going up.

The Marriott Grand is the last stop on this road, as far as I'm  concerned.  There is no "true beach" scene here, with the murky waters of Mobile Bay, but that doesn't matter at all.

The convention center is the draw, and along with the attendees come the spouses and kids.  There is a wonderful pool with water slide and waterfall, as well as attendants to take care of your every need.  There is also a golf course for those that are inclined.

The fun part of this place is the relaxation.  Like Fairhope, the property is covered in old live oak trees with Spanish Moss overhead as you stroll on their many pathways.

At 4:00 the staff perform a drum March to the pier, with children not far behind.  Once they arrive at the pier, they fire off the ceremonial cannon.  A couple of guest just jumped poolside when it went off.

There is a walkway along the shoreline.  The pathway is dotted with several wooden swings that are a joy to sit in and watch the sun set dead ahead.  The breeze off the Bay helps as the summer begins to heat up.

Either early, or after the sun sets, you can find additional enjoyment discovering a new favorite restaurant or two.

If you're looking for some place to rest and relax, give this slice of the Alabama coast a shot!

Beware of the YETI!

I've never been one to spend money on things that are pricey, mainly because that's never been my mindset, and over the years the money was spent raising two boys.

When it comes to a "want list", mine has never been long, since it's my tendency to just buy it when I want it.

When the YETI coolers came out, the curiosity got the best of me, but the pricing made me chuckle with the mindset of "ha!  Not in my lifetime!"

To my surprise, and delight, the spousal unit and the boys gave me the small YETI Roady as a gift.  This cooler has been impressive!  One beach run, I filled it up with our "Ziparitas" (frozen margaritas in a ziploc bag) and they were still frozen six hours later when we reached our destination!

Last summer we were at Point Clear, Alabama for a spousal unit retreat.  While she was in meetings I went shopping. I returned with a set of YETI 30 oz ramblers as wedding anniversary gifts to ourselves.  The first day I became a believer!  It didn't take long for this to become our favorite roadie cup on trips but they also became our favorite beach cup.  Turns out they are the perfect container for our Ziparitas!   Once you have sucked out all the liquid, you have Hawaiian ice to enjoy the rest of the day!

Yesterday I stopped by Sonic and got a route 44 frozen lemonade.   I eventually transferred it to my rambler and there is still frozen lemonade in the cup this morning!

It's now a year later and we are again in Point Clear, and it's time for another anniversary gift.  As I'm looking around, it hits me, why not another YETI?

I like a cold beer, and the spousal unit likes her DDP's.  Hummm.  Looks like the YETI  Colster is what the DDP ordered!  I couldn't wait to take them on a test run!  On the way back to the Grand, I loaded up on beer and ice.  The DDP could wait!

Back at the hotel, I waited for the beer to get good and cold.  Finally, I had ice cold beer!  Test time!  I inserted the can into the Colster and pop went the top!  First sip, ice cold!  Second, third and fourth sips, ice cold!  I purposely took an hour to drink the first beer, and like the Colster wrapper said, it was cold to the last sip!

Granted, your average beer drinker isn't going to take an hour to finish a can!  But, I can just see the spousal unit at the beach, sipping her DDP and it not getting warm.  And I'll be under the umbrella updating FB and not have to worry about my beer warming up!  We have always brought plastic bottles to the beach, but now, hey!  Cans are us!

I can already see it. Next year it will be the YETI Hopper bag!  But small, medium or large???

Yep!  I have a new addiction!  Just glad YETI didn't come along before kids and their college educations.

Beware of the YETI!